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VMworld Server virtualization juggernaut and cloud puffer VMware is getting into the database business. But it's not selling database the way Oracle or IBM sell databases. It's selling them more like the Microsoft sells database services on its Azure cloud.

One of the most important announcements to come out of the VMworld virtualization and cloud extravaganza in Las Vegas on monday is called the vFabric Data Director, and it is purposefully named to make you think about a virtualized database service rather than ponder the actual database running on top of its vSphere 5.0 server virtualization stack, updated in July, and running in conjunction with the vFabric 5.0 Spring Java application framework, which was goosed in June.

vFabric Data Director is the means of exposing and managing database services in the vFabric framework, and it is not tied to any particularly database management system. The first database that vFabric Data Director will support is called vFabric Postgres, which is based on the open source PostgreSQL 9 database and which has been tuned to work inside of an ESXi 5.0 virtual machine and make use of its features to clone and update databases. VMware is supporting this variant of PostgreSQL all by itself, by the way.

It is not surprising that VMware has chosen PostgreSQL as its first database layer for its vFabric application framework, which includes a bunch of tools, many of them based on open source projects, to build, deploy, and run Java applications on the Spring framework. vFabric adds RabbitMQ messaging, GemFire distributed data management, and Hypernic application monitoring add-ons. But don't get the wrong idea.

Dave McJannet, director of vFabric product marketing at VMware, tells El Reg that VMware will allow other databases to be exposed as services on the vFabric framework. "We will engage with customers to add other databases," McJannet says, being coy about what the plan is. With the popularity of MySQL among Web application developers, this is the obvious next step, followed up by the Oracle 11g, IBM DB2, and Microsoft SQL Server databases that are popularly deployed inside corporate data centers being the next obvious choices for supporting Java applications.

Programmers, serve yourself

vFabric Data Director allows database administrators to create templates of empty database images, perhaps in a small, medium, and large configuration running inside of a VM, that programmers can access through a self-service portal and use to create and test their applications. The vFabric framework is used to automatically patch and update these databases as they are used in the test and development environment, and can also be used to keep them updated as they are rolled into production.

And because you can create linked clones of VMs inside of the vSphere virtualization layer, you can roll out linked clones in the development and production environments and keep a gold copy of a database that will be updated by vFabric and then differential updates will be parsed out to the clone copies.

All of this happens under the covers, invisibly, and allows for thousands of running databases to be monitored and managed from a single pane of glass. If that makes you nervous as a system or database administrator, there are whole new breeds of sysadmins and DBAs who will think of this as perfectly normal. And they want your job.

VMware thinks it is onto something with vFabric Data Director. The corporate production IT environment and shadow IT environment on the development and test side typically has thousands of different database images, according to McJannet, and that are not managed or secured consistently. It takes weeks to get a database image provisioned, and DBAs have to do a lot of manual provisioning, tuning, and cloning of databases for developers. Equally importantly, high availability clustering or replication is not put on every database used in the company because it is expensive and complex, but under vFabric Data Director, companies will be able to provide HA replication with the click of a mouse.

Provided, of course, that their companies have the bucks to shell out to VMware. vFabric Data Director has a utility pricing model, as you would expect, at a cost of $600 per VM under management per year that is running a database image. vFabric Postgres, VMware's tweaked and tuned version of PostgreSQL, is available free of charge for developers and will be available for download starting today at cloudfoundry.com. (Cloudy Foundry is VMware's open source and hosted platform cloud. vFabric, by contrast, is a set of tools for ad hoc application development inside your own data center).

If you put a vFabric Postgres image into production, then it costs $1,700 per VM per year. The underlying vFabric 5.0 Standard Edition costs $1,200 per VM per year, while the Advanced Edition, which has more bells and whistles, costs $1,800 per VM. The Advanced Edition includes RabbitMQ messaging and an SQL interface for GemFire called SQLFire. ®

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